Monday, March 19, 2007

More Shitty Fiction

He walks into the second-hand store, a wad of bills in his hip pocket. The girl behind the counter is popping her gum noisily and reading a magazine, some teenybopper deal. Her skirt is short, and when she hops up onto the counter, he catches a glimpse of her panties.

“Today might not be so bad,” he thinks.

He walks over to the bookshelf, far in the back, past the clothes from 1986, past the broken toys and the dusty furniture. The books are his favorite part of the store. He loves browsing each title, reading a little bit, picking and choosing which he will buy, lifting each dusty, ten-year-old paperback and flipping through it, a lifetime at a glance.

The books don’t care that he still works at Burger King after six years. They don’t care that he drinks too much. They never complain when he watches G4 for hours on end. They were his friends, sometimes, his lovers. They are what he has. And this is his favorite place to hang out with them; here against the back wall of a dingy thrift store that has the smell of old furniture and laundry detergent. This is his place.

He sits down, cross-legged, facing the bookshelf. He pops his knuckles one-by-one, and drags his finger across each spine slowly, reading each title, imagining what was in each book, imagining what the author was like, why they had written what they had written, whether they were alive or dead.

Footsteps, and he shoves his face into a book. Some thriller by Dean Koontz, an author he despises, but that doesn’t matter. He doesn’t want to look at this person, this invader of his space. He wants to ignore them until they go away, so he can go back to enjoying his solitude.

The girl behind the counter pops her gum. He jumps, and glances towards the intruder. All he sees is feet, flip-flop clad, with red painted toenails, and little white flowers on the big toes. “A woman!” he thinks, and quickly looks back to his book. He is nervous now, and starts quickly reading.

A moment passes.

“Whatchya got there?” She asks him. For a moment, he contemplates ignoring her, but then glances up. She is wearing a knee-length skirt, and a white, short-sleeved blouse. She is pretty, green-eyed, hair in a ponytail.

He flips the book over in his hand, and reads “Dean Koontz, Eye of the Beholder.”

“You like him?”

“Not really, its just what I picked up.” Because I wanted to ignore you, he continues internally.

“Yeah, he’s kind of, what the word…” She pauses and puts a finger against the side of her nose, “Formulaic?”

“I agree.” He says. She smiles, so does he.

“Do you read a lot?” She asks.

“Yeah, its what I do, you know?”

“Have you ever read any Burroughs?”

“William or Edgar?”

She laughs. “Edgar.”

“No. Is he good?” He puts the Koontz back on the shelf.

“The best! Pick up Princess of Mars. You won’t regret it.”

“I will.” He says. Realizing this girl was there to stay, and that his haven had been taken over, he stood, shook her hand, and left.

It wasn’t until he was in his car that he realized she might have been interested in him. He quickly steps out of the car, and making long, fast strides, walks back into the store.

The girl behind the counter is gone still there with her gum. The out-of-style clothing, the stinky furniture, the broken toys, are all still there. The books, his old friends, are still there, but the girl is gone. There is no trace of her, except for a pair of footprints in the dust in front of the bookshelf, and a book turned sideways on the shelf.

He picks it up. It is Princess of Mars. He walks to the counter, buys it, and on his way out, opens to the first chapter.

Above the blob of text, written in blue ink:


He smiles, and tucks the book into his back pocket. “Today might not be so bad.” He thinks.


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